The New York Giants were admittedly surprised that Damontre Moore was available when their pick came up in the third round of this year’s draft. Over two weeks and one preseason game into training camp, Moore’s free fall out of the first two rounds does not appear to be fool’s gold for Big Blue.
Instead, it looks like the Giants may have landed a talent usually found in the first 10 selections of the draft with the 81st overall pick .
The main reason Moore fell, based on expert mock drafts, was his performance at the NFL combine. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. (Insider subscription required) and our in-house draft expert, Matt Miller, both had Moore going as one of the first three overall picks in their last mocks before the combine. NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah had the man known as “DaMonster” at Texas A&M being drafted 13th in his pre-combine mock.
Moore went on to disappoint in Indianapolis, posting a 4.95 time in the 40-yard dash and benchpressing 225 pounds only 12 times. After the combine, both Kiper and Jeremiah had Moore falling out of the first round, while Miller kept him in, barely, at 30th, going to the Atlanta Falcons.
After the NFL draft, other excuses started to come out for his plummet to the third round.
Immaturity was one, mainly based around a 2011 arrest for marijuana possession; poor practice habits were another. While these issues may have helped cement his decline, the combine performance is the reason his fall started in the first place. Everyone knew about the pot charge and his practice habits when Moore was considered a sure-fire first-round pick in January and February.
In his short time with New York, the 20-year-old is dispelling all of his alleged weaknesses.
His practice habits have been exemplary in training camp, as explained by Giants defensive line coach Robert Nunn to the New York Daily News’ Ralph Vacchiano:
So far, we haven’t found (his) limit yet…He’s handled everything we’ve given him, both in OTAs and starting off training camp…He’s got some rookie in him, there’s no doubt but it’s the good kind of rookie. He’s someone you have to tell to slow down, you never have to tell him to speed up.
As far as his athleticism, which was clearly put into question by his combine performance, it certainly wasn’t an issue last Saturday night in Pittsburgh in the Giants first preseason game.
Moore’s defensive stat line of four tackles seems ho-hum, but it definitely doesn’t tell the full story of his work in his first NFL game action. Pro Football Focus’ Gordon McGuinness gives a great recap of how dominant Moore was against the Steelers:
There wasn’t a player in the game who jumped out more than Giants third-round draft pick Damontre Moore (+6.0)…His blocked punt with 11:27 left in the first quarter was the opening highlight but he added some impressive work as a pass rusher. Beating a selection of Steelers blockers to record a hit and four hurries, he did so in a variety of different ways with pressure coming on rushes inside, outside, and once on a stunt.
It wasn’t just as a pass rusher where he impressed though, with him finding success against tight end Michael Palmer and backup offensive tackle Guy Whimper in the running game. Topping it all off he showed nice awareness on a couple of screens, preventing any positive yardage on either of them.
This certainly doesn’t sound like a player lacking in athleticism, which magnifies the main problem with the reaction to Moore’s combine performance—it wasn’t like he lacked production in college.
His numbers got better each year, topping out with a tremendous junior season that saw him record 85 tackles, 21 for a loss and 12.5 sacks. He was strong enough and fast enough to live in opponents' backfield for a good portion of his three seasons at Texas A&M.
Therefore, how many reps he can complete in the bench press or a slow 40-yard time shouldn’t matter much.
As for Moore’s supposed immaturity, check out his assessment of his NFL debut, courtesy of Ohm Youngmisuk at ESPNNewYork.com.
“I feel like it was all right," Moore said of his performance. "There is always room for improvement. I made a lot of mistakes out there. I'm just ready to watch some film and get better.”
It definitely sounds like he has the right attitude and a good head on his shoulders.
Before anointing Moore the 2013 Rookie of the Year and a future Hall of Famer, some caution needs to be heeded. Any true determination of Moore as a draft-day steal can’t start until the regular season begins. As intriguing as his performance was against the Steelers, a lot of his success came against backup players in a game that didn’t count. Also, let’s see whether his strong practice habits and maturity hold up throughout a long season and the inevitable chewing out from Tom Coughlin, who is notoriously hard on rookies.
Nevertheless, a first impression usually says a lot, and Moore’s is making plenty of other teams look like they made a mistake back in April.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus (subscription required to access premium stats)